For the last 6 years, Down syndrome has been a part of my life, every day, all day.
Since completing my book “What I Want You To Know”, I’ve been blogging, tweeting, facebooking, you name it, Down syndrome related news stories and information. And while seeking out these stories and news pieces is hardly a new thing for me, sharing them is.
I realize that so many people may not read every story. Most people won’t read any. But I’m going to continue to beat this drum, and here’s why.
In thinking more and more about why I wrote that book, it was because of the fears and worries I had as a new parent of a child with Down syndrome. Fear–a fear of the unknown. This whole segment of our population that has Down syndrome is relatively ignored and forgotten. I’ve read statistics that around 75% of women who learn they are carrying a child with Down syndrome terminate the pregnancy. Before passing judgment on a person for doing this, I know that the main reason for this decision is fear. Whether they fear that the child’s quality of life is lessened, or the stigma, or the added expense or raising a child with special needs…these reasons are all based in fear.
By sharing stories about individuals with Down syndrome, hopefully some people will be reached and learn that people with Down syndrome are doing some amazing things; making a difference in their communities, whether it’s winning a school homecoming crown, running a business, excelling at sports, modeling, etc, the point is that they are doing pretty normal things. Look at them. Get used to seeing them. Past generations locked them away in institutions, but today, individuals with Down syndrome live and work among us, and that’s worth sharing.
The more we see just how typical and normal their lives are, the more they will become so, and hopefully some of the fears will be lessened, and more will survive the womb.
I don’t want to say at all that having a child with Down syndrome won’t change your life. It will. It will change everything. But just in the most wonderful ways that you can’t even imagine. It will change your heart. It will open your eyes. You will never regret knowing or loving a person with Down syndrome, and you can’t say that about just anyone!
So I will continue to harp on this. My youngest daughter will always have Down syndrome. I owe it to her to try to share stories that remind folks people like her exist and need all of us to respect them as individuals and see past the stereotypes or our own fears or preconceived ideas of who or what they are.